January 2014

SportsTurf provides current, practical and technical content on issues relevant to sports turf managers, including facilities managers. Most readers are athletic field managers from the professional level through parks and recreation, universities.

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Page 27 of 52

Field Science | By Dr. Dave Han BERMUDAGRASS football field with spring dead spot. Fungicides: what they do (and don't) our turf has a disease! What do you do? Reach for a fungicide? What kind? And what's the best way to use it? What exactly do fungicides do? How can I maximize my chance of getting a good result from a fungicide? There are several ways in which fungicides are classified: By when they are used, by how they move (or don't move) inside a plant, by their chemical structure, and by their mode of action (how they kill a fungus, or prevent it from growing). Y TIME OF USE Fungicides can be used both preventively, before any disease symptoms are present, and curatively, after disease occurs. This distinction is important because some fungicides are much better suited for one of these uses than others. For example, fungicides that work by activating a plant's natural defense responses to infection must be used preventively. By the time a disease is ravaging a plant, its defenses are already being overcome. Although a fungicide application made after disease symptoms appear is called curative, it's important to remember that fungicides don't actually bring dead plants back to life. If a lawn or field is suffering from a disease, a curative fungicide application can stop the dead patches from getting bigger. But for the turf to recover takes either good growing conditions for the grass to fill back in if it can spread vegetatively, or to re-establish via new seed if it can't spread vegetatively. This is why turf managers should be much more aggressive about treating (and preventing!) diseases at the end of the growing season: it is much harder to repair damage then than during good growing weather. Some fungicides are able to be absorbed into plant tissue and moved in a plant's vascular system, while others are not. In general, fungicides that do not move inside a plant are called contact fungicides. These fungicides work by coating the leaf with a protective fungicide barrier that will prevent any spore or piece of fungal mycelium that lands on a leaf from growing and being able to infect the plant. Since contact fungicides can only protect plant parts that the spray lands on, they are useless for treating root diseases like spring dead spot, summer patch, Pythium root rot or anything else that infects below ground. 28 SportsTurf | January 2014 Because the contact fungicides work outside the plant, they must coat the entire leaf on both sides. Getting even spray coverage can be tricky in turfgrass, which has many small leaves that overlap each other. This is why fungicide labels specify using large volumes of water, often as much as 5 gallons per 1000 square feet (more than 217 gallons per acre)! This is much more water than is used for spraying herbicides, but it is needed to ensure there is enough fungicide solution to cover every leaf thoroughly. One problem that turf managers often have is that they have only one sprayer and setting it up for both herbicide and fungicide applications can be time consuming. The time it takes to refill a sprayer tank also has to be taken into consideration when deciding on spray volumes for fungicide applications over large areas, like multiple field sports complexes, but the large volumes are on the label for a reason. Nozzle design also can have a large impact on the effectiveness of fungicide applications. In general, nozzles that produce many smaller droplets or droplets that are designed to shatter into many tiny droplets on impact (flat fan or air induction type nozzles) give better results than raindrop type nozzles designed to produce fewer, large droplets. However, smaller droplets also drift much more easily. Air induction nozzles may offer the best combination of reduced drift and good coverage. Some fungicides can be absorbed into a leaf and diffuse around different parts of a single leaf, but they do not enter a plant's vascular system and so cannot be transported from leaf to leaf. These are called local penetrant fungicides. Local penetrants, by entering a leaf and diffusing through it, reduce the need for absolutely perfect spray coverage although they are not able to move down from a plant's leaves to the roots and so are, like the true contact fungicides, not effective against root diseases. With both true contacts and local penetrants, the recommended re-application intervals are relatively short, on the order of 5 days to 2 weeks depending on the individual product and disease pressure. New grass leaves that formed since the last application are not protected, and the fungicide coating can be susceptible to being washed off the leaves or degraded by sunlight. The tradeoff for a relatively short window of protection is that contact fungicides usually are the cheapest. A fungicide that is able to move throughout an entire plant is called systemic. Systemic fungicides are generally very useful in preventive applications, because they are able to be absorbed by and remain present in a plant for several weeks. Re-application

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